Camping trips can be as physical or leisurely as you’d like and span the scope of comfort from ‘roughing it’ to luxury RVs. Regardless of the specifics of your itinerary and desired comfort level, however, you’ll still need to be prepared for camping in general. This preparation comes from knowing the rules of camping before leaving home.
Rules Of Camping Every Camper Should Know Beforehand
In America alone, over 40 million campers visit public camping grounds each year. From the potential geographic isolation to the potential for mass numbers of people in small areas, the rules of camping stem from two broad categories – safety and respect. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to throw your own comfort in the rules, too. Let’s explore the basics of what you should know about all three categories so that you can have the best camping experience possible.
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1. Safety (22 Rules)
Safety rules are designed to keep yourself, the environment, wildlife, other campers, and any nearby residents from harm due to camping activities. Here are some safety rules you need to be prepared to follow while camping:
- Always inform someone where you’re camping, who you’re camping with, and how long the camping trip will last so that this person can reach you in case of emergencies and alert authorities should you not return or contact them within the specified timeframe. This is an invaluable safety precaution to get you help should a disabling injury or emergency happen while you’re camping.
- Know all fire rules for the specific camping area. Is there a fire ban or restriction in place due to drought, is smoking prohibited, and do you need a permit to build a fire?
- What are the weather risks associated with your camping area – flash flooding, tornados, wildfires? Know how to be alerted for these kinds of events and the evacuation protocol should they become a threat.
- Build and maintain campfires properly by using a fire ring or fire pit, making only small fires, clearing away all overhead and ground debris before building a fire, and never leaving fires unsupervised while you’re away or sleeping. Poor fire safety places you, other campers, and nearby residents at risk for wildfire disasters.
- Never bring fires, lit stoves, or lit candles into tents and enclosed spaces due to the risk of accidental fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Leave your firewood at home. Most campgrounds do not allow incoming firewood because it can spread outside diseases and pests to plants and wildlife.
- Don’t eat or touch wild plants, berries, fruit, and so forth unless you’re 100 percent certain of what it is and not toxic to humans. Watch pets and children for this safety risk, too. Pick up a guide to bring with you for easy reference.
- Select the physical location of campsites with safety checks in mind. It should be in easy walking distance to a source of water; on flat, dry land if camping in the backcountry; and strictly limited to designated or assigned areas within established campgrounds.
- On public campgrounds, keep vehicles on designated roadways and obey posted speed limits. Keep ATVs and bikes, if allowed at all, within designated areas. Remember, camping can put hikers and pedestrian traffic in unexpected places.
- If children are camping, ensure that they understand the rule of two, which is simply that no child goes anywhere alone. Plan a buddy system for kids ahead of time and go over what should be done in case one suffers and injury or some other emergency.
- Know the pet policy for a campground before heading out with one so that you don’t face a fine or eviction. Be sure to clean up after your pet and abide by any leash laws. Never leave your pet unattended since there are likely wild animals capable of harming your pet.
- Keep food items and food waste stored properly to avoid wildlife coming into your camp and possibly harming you. Don’t purposely feed or touch the animals, either, as this might jeopardize their health and your health and safety.
- Do not hunt or fish in restricted areas nor when it’s not expressly in season, and you have a license to do so. While it may seem harmless, such rules are designed for the safety of the local ecosystem. You can also face a huge fine if officials discover you breaking these rules.
- When using a personal boat, ensure that you’ve cleaned it properly beforehand so that any undergrowth doesn’t jeopardize the safety of the water’s ecosystem.
- Bring a shovel to bury human waste, and use biodegradable toilet paper. Keep waste at least 50 meters away from water supplies to avoid contamination.
- Don’t jeopardize the health of trees by carving on them, damage foliage by paving new trails, or otherwise alter the environment from how you found it. Instead of breaking branches and chopping trees for wood, use downed trees or purchase wood from campground officials.
- Don’t leave home without a first aid kit and basic survival kit, which should, at a minimum, include a way to start a fire, compass, headlight/flashlight, and multi-tool. It’s always prudent to waterproof survival gear, too.
- Never drink water from nature without boiling or purifying it first. Purification tablets should also be in your first aid kit for emergency readiness. Plan water needs accordingly – you’ll need about 16 ounces of water for every hour of strenuous activity to stay properly hydrated.
- Get all your gear in order beforehand, which will require knowing the terrain you’re entering, preparing for the length of stay, and considering your itinerary. For example, if you’re backpacking through mountainous terrain for a week, then you’ll want a pack that’s large and lightweight. You’ll also want to keep the packed contents down to the essentials. If you’re camping nearby your vehicle and plan more lazy days, then gear can include a plethora of comfort items.
- Camping gear should be by the season, too, to avoid scenarios like hypothermia. A mountaineering tent, for example, is specifically designed for harsher winter camping whereas a three-season tent will keep spring and summer bugs and rain out.
- Dress appropriately for the season and location with clothing like hiking boots to avoid ankle injuries, tall moisture-wicking socks to avoid blisters and insects, thermals for cold, and hats and sunglasses.
- Know what to do if you encounter a wild animal. A black bear, for example, should be greeted with loud noise because its rather timid, but a grizzly bear should be met with no sudden movements.
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2. Respect The Environment And Other Campers (10 Rules)
A fundamental rule of camping is to respect all that is around you, which includes the environment, animals, plants, and other humans. The goal is to leave no trace, meaning your surroundings and the campers who follow you shouldn’t be able to tell you’ve ever been there. Here are some specific rules on respect to keep in mind before you set out on a camping trip:
- Respect campsite rules concerning the maximum number of occupants for a given site. Some campgrounds have rules for the number, frequency, and length of time allowed for visitors that you’ll need to keep in mind if you expect guests. It’s your responsibility to ensure your guests follow the rules of the campground and general camping etiquette rules, too.
- While it’s not particularly applicable in remote camping, you’ll need to respect noise rules, specified quiet hours, and hours of operation for noise-producing machines if camping in established campsites. Be mindful of noise levels, such as from music or talking, that can carry beyond your campsite. Noise shouldn’t impose upon other campers.
- Properly dispose of all trash. Remember that trash shouldn’t be burned as it can emit toxins into the air, ground, and water supply and leave debris behind that impacts animals and other campers. It also becomes an unsightly welcoming for the campers who follow you to find half-burned debris in what’s now their campsite.
- Do not infringe upon other campers by utilizing part of their campsite, cutting through their campsite, or otherwise invading their privacy. Camping etiquette concerning neighbors is, at most, a brief introduction to alert them they have neighbors. Beyond that, however, you shouldn’t make contact with your camping neighbors unless there’s an emergency or significant safety issue they should be aware exists.
- Bring trash bags or containers to bring everything out in which you bring to a campsite.
- If you relocate established campsite items like picnic tables or grills, then be prepared to put them back before leaving so that the next campers can easily find and access everything.
- Don’t perform campsite activities, such as dishes and laundry, in camping communal spaces like bathrooms. This is as unsanitary as it is disrespectful to other campers.
- Ensure that children know not to invade the space of other campers.
- Ensure pet activities and continual howling and barking doesn’t infringe upon the serenity of other campers.
- Respect lighting rules. Like noise hours, some campgrounds have designed hours for when exterior lighting systems can be in use. So, be sure to bring flashlights for necessary night movements like bathroom duties.
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3. Camping Comfort (10 Rules)
Once you have all the must-know camping rules on safety and respect, you can focus on the camping rules that will make your camping trip more enjoyable and easier.
- Campers often make the mistake of waiting until on-site to try out their gear and supplies, but this means a long trek back for supplies if that gear doesn’t perform as expected or the camper can’t operate it. So, always do a trial run with gear at home to ensure everything runs smoothly when you actually need to hang that hammock, use the camping stove, or set up that tent.
- Have a contingency plan for all bare necessities when camping remotely. For example, let’s say you’re planning on using nothing but flint on a camping trip to teach your child fire-making skills. That’s great, but if fire is a necessity for warmth, food, water, and/or light, then you’ll need a backup fire-starter source in case of emergency.
- Choose the size of your tent wisely because the max capacity is designed for “average-sized” individuals and leaves little room for anything beyond actual body space occupied. For comfort, most camping guides recommend going at least two people above the expected capacity. So if your camping party is four, then you’ll get more comfort with a six-person tent without adding a huge weight difference to your gear.
- Use a checklist for your gear and packing to ensure nothing of importance gets left behind as well as things of little use don’t make their way into your precious pack weight.
- Plan to arrive at unfamiliar campgrounds early so that you can have amble daylight hours to survey your surroundings and set up camp. Nothing is worse for campers trying to rest up for the next day’s activities than late arrivers using headlights and making loud noises as they set up camp in the dark.
- When reserving a campsite at a campground, state park, or other established camping zone, be sure to ask for a complete set of camping rules and regulations for the area so that you can familiarize yourself before the excitement of arriving distracts you.
- Research local components when camping in unfamiliar geographical locations. Find out things like heat index, nighttime weather, and bug populations so that you can add gear like sunscreen and bug spray if necessary.
- Plan ahead for a meal, snack, and hydration needs so that you’re not forced to resupply, infringe on other camper’s, or call it quits early. Don’t forget the niceties like seasonings and sauces if those are important to you.
- Check the weather forecast. You may need to amend your supply list, reschedule, or reorganize based on weather changes. Rain without rain gear can make for a miserable camping experience.
- Keep Your first few camping trips closer to home and in a structured environment to develop your camping skills in the best known and safest environment before you venture out into unfamiliar and remote camping trips.
In closing, now you have the rules you need to know before you actually set out on a camping trip. It can seem like a lot to abide by and remember at first glance. However, by breaking them down into safety, respect, and comfort categories, you can see that they exist to ensure the best experience possible for all campers.